I kept trying to start this write-up and continually fell into emotional statements about the stomping Texas got at the hands of UCLA on Saturday. I wound up with so many that I felt compelled to give them their own post, so you can look forward to that later this week while you lick your wounds and await (perhaps even eagerly) the Red River Shootout this weekend.
There are other teams in the conference, though, so we'll have to take a step back and check out how the rest of the Big 12 did as well. In fact, it might actually be refreshing. Cathartic, or something. The conference season gets underway for realz next weekend, so there's that to look forward to.
My business deals with working in the past, though, so on to Week 4 in the Big 12. Home team in bold, as always. Someday I'll have the confidence to assume most of you have actually looked at this and already know that.
Kansas State-17 (4-0, 1-0)
UCF-13 (2-2, 0-0)
The Skinny: This one was weird, as UCF led most of the game until the Wildcats finally rallied in the fourth quarter. I'm sure Bill Snyder is just sandbagging so it looks five times more embarrassing when KSU beats Texas by 35 in Manhattan. For the first time this season, you got to see what happens to a Kansas State team once the opposing defense shuts down Daniel Thomas. There's just not much else on the roster. Ironically, I had a dream last night that he was the first pick in the 2011 NFL draft. Some people dream of Jeannie. I dream of talented running backs.
Big Man On Campus: UCF tailback Ronnie Weaver tripled his yardage output on the season with 22 carries for 130 yards and a score. He led a Knight rushing game that accrued 252 yards on the day. I'll be shocked if Texas can get to 100 against KSU.
Missouri-51 (4-0, 0-0)
Miami (OH)-13 (2-2, 1-0)
The Skinny: I left THIS game at halftime to go see UT get manhandled by UCLA. The Tiger defense is never going to be a world-beater, but their bend-don't-break philosophy and newfound ability to force turnovers (they ran a fumble back for a TD on the first play from scrimmage of the game) should be enough to guarantee a second-place finish in the North. Seven different players scored TDs and Mizzou's slow-to-develop running game gashed a Miami defense that decimated Florida's offense. But the way QB Blaine Gabbert zeroes in on WR T.J. Moe makes Colt McCoy look like he thought Jordan Shipley was invisible on the field. Gabbert struggles with read progression if Moe is covered, which should be a fun experience against Nebraska when Amukamara is blanketing him like Michael Jackson. The close shave against San Diego State last week looks like an anomaly for Mizzou. For what it's worth, one of Hornfans' only objective posters, HuskerNKingwood (naturally, he's not a UT fan), thinks Mizzou is the second best team in the conference. I think that is a bit overboard, especially at this juncture, but don't be surprised if the South beats the crap out of each other and Nebraska and Missouri emerge as the two highest-ranked teams in the conference at the end of the season.
Big Man On Campus: Me, for being a big enough UT fan to leave such a relaxed and festive atmosphere in favor of having my soul stripped from my body Shang Tsung-style for the proceeding three hours.
Texas-12 (hah!)(3-1, 1-0)
UCLA-34 (2-2, 0-1)
The Skinny: Shit. One of the biggest letdowns in recent UT history. Man we find some depressing ways to lose games. 2008 with the Gideon drop and Crabtree catch, Colt getting injured in the national title, the choke and buzzer-beater against Wake Forest in the NCAA tournament, not being able to generate offense against TCU in the Super Regional at home (what's with UT's offensive woes in all three sports lately?), and now this. While those other games were gut-wrenching, this was almost comical. The copious errors on offense and special teams, the preschool-level playcalling (I'm probably going to get multiple e-mails from parents asking me not to insult their children by comparing them to Greg Davis), and the defense giving up in the second half/"getting worn out both mentally and physically."
Mack Brown and Will Muschamp took the blame, as always. Davis, the primary culprit, didn't, as always. The more I hear Brown take blame, the more I get pissed off because I don't feel like it's genuine. He says it's not good enough, but then we usually don't see anything done about it (I'm talking about games we win, but play poorly, as well). If Mack actually wanted things to change, he knows what he has to do. If he doesn't want to fire Davis and McWhorter (and I'm close to throwing Kennedy and even closer to throwing Chambers on this list too), then he needs to at least send a PUBLIC message of some sort to them saying their lack of progress over the past few years has been unacceptable. Don't just say, "The coaches need to be better." Say, "Coach McWhorter needs to teach his guys to cut on screen plays" or "Coach Kennedy needs to have his WRs mauling cornerbacks downfield." Don't just list one guy to single him out; list every coach who's at fault. Trust me, there's a long list. I know it's not Mack's style to call people out publicly, but these offensive coaches are complacent and have only been regressing since Vince Young left. Success can be the worst enemy to a program's individual parts.
What a joke.
Big Man On Campus: I'll just give it to the entire UCLA team. They knew they weren't nearly as talented or nearly as good, but they kept grinding and had the right gameplan on defense to stymie UT's offense. That's the gameplan all mediocre defenses are going to use to defend us-sit back, quell the big plays, and let us chop our own heads off. Their offensive scheme was sub-middle school-level at best, but brilliant in its simplicity. They avoided making errors and wore down our defense in the first half, then punished them in the second. The running backs ran hard all day long and the QB, Prince, converted key third down passes to keep the offense going.
Oklahoma-31 (4-0, 0-0)
Cincinnati-29 (1-3, 0-0)
The Skinny: OU has grown accustomed to these kinds of games, making me wonder if they're like the little kid who's bigger than everybody else in fifth grade, but gets his ass kicked in eighth grade because he always relied on his size and never really learned how to fight correctly. Once OU grows up and plays somebody with comparable talent, they'll lose. At least that's what keeps me going this week as I look forward to the RRS this weekend.
The fact that Cincy actually outgained the Sooners in offensive yardage, 461-452, should give me hope that our offense can move the ball on a suspect OU defense. But it doesn't because we can't hurt them where they're weak, which is up the middle and deep down the field. The Bearcats ran all over OU with Isaiah Pead and threw all over them with Zach Collaros. I just don't see UT having the personnel or playcalling ability to consistently move the ball on a talented and fast defense like OU's, even with their weaknesses.
Big Man On Campus: In a losing effort, Cincy QB Zach Collaros played well in throwing for 305 yards and three TDs to one pick.
Iowa State-27 (2-2, 0-1)
Northern Iowa-0 (1-2, 1-0)
The Skinny: I'm not gonna lie, I didn't even know this game was on last weekend until I looked at the scores on ESPN. Iowa State got outgained a pathetic 210 yards to 320, but somehow still won 27-0. Scanning farther down the stat comparison, we see why: Northern Iowa gave the ball up five times on turnovers. I'd love to know the last time a team outgained their opponent at a 3:2 clip, didn't score a single point, and lost by nearly four touchdowns. Wow. If it's any consolation to Iowa State, starting QB Austen Arnaud left after three plays with an injured shoulder sustained in the KSU game last week.
Big Man On Campus: The Cyclone defense forced five turnovers, including two interception returns for touchdowns. Way to pick your offense up.
Nebraska-17 (4-0, 0-0)
South Dakota State-3 (0-3, 0-1)
The Skinny: This might have been almost as big of a shocker as UT getting smashed by UCLA. That may sound like hyperbole, but with the tear Nebraska's been on and an offense perfectly suited to minimizing errors and blowing out poor competition, only 17 points in this game is hard to envision. I would have guessed 17 points a QUARTER before I guessed 17 total. South Dakota State is a non-FBS school that has yet to win a game, but they came to win and not just earn a paycheck. Speedy QB Tayler Martinez, despite already breaking the team's freshman QB rushing record, played like the freshman he is with a fumble, two interceptions, numerous bad passes, and a taunting penalty. The whole team was probably on a high after whipping Washington, saw SDSU on their schedule and yawned, and just wasn't up for the game at all. Mentally, they were in it about as much as Texas against UCLA. They'll be fine and they're still the class of the conference.
Big Man On Campus: LB Lavonte David had a monster game for Nebraska in a game where many Huskers didn't play up to their standard. He finished with 19 tackles and two pass breakups.
Kansas-42 (2-2, 0-0)
New Mexico State-16 (0-3, 0-0)
The Skinny: KU used a balanced offensive attack and special teams to dismantle the Aggies. The Jayhawks went over 500 yards of offense-264 yards passing and 237 yards rushing-and held NMSU to under 300 yards. True freshman tailback James Sims had another solid outing with 115 yards and two touchdowns on only 16 carries, as well as two catches for 49 yards.
Big Man On Campus: All-purpose player D.J. Beshears scored three TDs for KU in the first half, including a 96-yard kick return to answer a New Mexico State touchdown and spark the Jayhawk rout.
Baylor-30 (3-1, 0-0)
Rice-13 (1-3, 0-0)
The Skinny: This looked like a similar game to what we played with Rice: slow start, got it going in the second quarter, looked like a blowout at halftime, never really gained control of the game in the second half, the game ends quickly, and it's only a 17-point win. Baylor doesn't seem to be the dynamic offensive team many people expected at the beginning of the season, despite playmakers like RGIII, Jay Finley, and Kendall Wright. Rice is still battling an identity crisis between being a running team and a passing team. All their talent is at RB, but they only had 92 rushing yards, while passing for 204.
Big Man On Campus: Robert Griffin III threw for 268 yards and three touchdowns to one interception and added 50 yards on the ground in a ho-hum win for the Bears over a not-very-good Rice team in search of an identity.
It's obvious Texas doesn't belong at the top of the pile right now, so they take a bit of a tumble. It may be a bit unfair to have them as high as number four, but I'm waiting to evaluate how UT responds to OU before letting them freefall. The Oklahoma State/Texas A&M tussle on Thursday night is intriguing as not only a fun game between two high-powered offenses and less-than-stellar defenses, but also as a baseline for the relative strengths of the middle-of-the-road Big 12 teams. Depending on how those two teams look and whether Texas can inspire some confidence against OU, they may both jump the Horns. Kansas State drops as well due to their struggles with UCF.
1. Nebraska Cornhuskers
2. Oklahoma Sooners
3. Missouri Tigers
4. Texas Longhorns
5. Oklahoma State Cowboys
6. Texas A&M Aggies
7. Kansas State Wildcats
8. Texas Tech Red Raiders
9. Baylor Bears
10. Iowa State Cyclones
11. Kansas Jayhawks
12. Colorado Buffaloes